When I was told we would be visiting an “art museum”, I imagined a place like the MoMa in New York City, a place I have visited over a dozen times during my life. Never did I think we would visit a Cathedral that was originally an Incan Palace, an Incan wall containing the infamous “12-Cornered Stone”, as well as an original palace of an Archbishop turned into an art exhibit. For any student, art fanatic or not, these places were out of a distant dream.
The day began at the Cathedral that stands proudly at the heart of the Plaza de Armas. Beautiful golden alters glistened as you walked down the three main hallways. Stunning and massive Christian paintings decorated the walls and vaulted ceilings forced any visitor to stare up in awe. That is until you stumbled across The Last Supper painting.
Created by Marcos Zapata in the 1750’s, this painting highly resembled that of Leonardo da Vinci’s, but with a very apparent Peruvian twist. Instead of lamb as the main course, the disciples surrounded a plate of cuy, or Guinea pig. Additionally, they were shown enjoying the traditional drink of chicha instead of wine. Judas, the disciple that betrayed Jesus, is presented as Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish conquistador who lead the fall of the Incan Empire. The photograph shown below has been borrowed from Wikipedia because I was unable to use a camera inside of the Cathedral.
The surprises within the Cathedral did not end with The Last Supper. Instead, we were shown what felt like a damp basement that had small “cabinets” on the walls. Shortly after entering this small, cramped space, we were told that within the cabinets were remains of past important priests or other important members of the Cathedral. The most important of all was the heart and ashes of Garcilaso de la Vega in a small silver chest just above my head. A man whose remains were brought back to his birth location of Cusco after his death in Córdoba, Spain. Again, I was unable to photograph this room, so the following image was borrowed from La Biblioteca Marquense.
Following our visit to the Cathedral, we stopped by another very infamous Incan site, the wall which contained a stone with 12 corners that fit perfectly within the wall and the surrounding stones. I was able to take a photograph with the stone, which was incredibly difficult because of all of the tourists that wanted the same picture. This stone fit so perfectly within the wall that not even a credit card could be inserted within the cracks. The Incas were definitely skilled in geometry!
Our final stop was located near the 12-Cornered Stone at the Archbishop’s Palace, also known as Museo Arzobispal. This was the main “art museum” that we would visit on this day. This colonial palace had some of the most beautiful architecture I have seen in Cusco. The gorgeous fountain located at the center, the hallways and rooms that contained interesting and unique artwork were sights that you could only have the pleasure of viewing in Peru. Mostly Catholic paintings hung on the walls. There was antique furniture and carved wooden walkways and doorways that caused most of us to stop and wonder, “how?”. The time and attention dedicated to the paintings and carvings made you question what art has evolved into today. The stained glass brought me back to a dream I once had where I lived in a palace of my own. This palace was surreal and I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to visit such an astounding historic site. I wish I had more history on this location, but the beauty of this place alone is unforgettable.
As I reflect on my experience in Peru thus far, I realize that I have longed for art and architecture for most of my time here. Little did I realize that I had constantly been surrounded by awe inspiring historic locations with fantastical masterpieces within. This day will always be remembered in my most sacred thoughts and dreams. I am not a religious person, but I have discovered a new appreciation for Christianity and the works of art and architecture that help define the history of Cusco.This entry was posted in 2016, Cusco, General, Peru